I have moved onto bigger and better things- a new blog is one of them, You will find the same content has been transfered over, and new content is being posted weekly. Please update your links and be ready to askmerce in a whole new set of ways in 2011!
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Categories : Uncategorized
I just realized that the Willow Creek Christmas message I blogged about is online! Not quite as powerful watching it on-screen versus being there live, but you’ll get the idea pretty quick.
Check out the link below:
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Tags: Andrew Mercer, Center for Christian Life Enrichment, Christmas, fear, north shore, Northbrook, northshore, Video, Willow Creek
Categories : Christian, Spirituality
I left work at the counseling center early to be there, and as the lights dimmed, the music began, and images of Mary and Joseph flashed on the screen, I was glad I did. The drama unfolded and I was transported into a dark world of anxiety, worry, pain, and fear that matched where I was emotionally at the time.
I felt something in my gut, I was being stirred, and I could tell a storm was brewing. Tears were a few moments away, and through shortened breaths I sat back and held on tight for the onslaught of emotion. Mary and the Angel were acting out Luke chapter 1 and fighting back and forth through disbelief, fear, anxiety, worry, and anger. Mary finally reaches a place of acceptance and submission and saying, “I am the lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).
The theme of the Christmas service at Willow Creek Church this year was Do Not Be Afraid -Yeah Right!
Given where I am right now, how could I not be afraid! I am in a place of taking a huge step of faith and doing things I would not normally do on the belief that I am being prompted by God to do them, and in addition I am supposed to be fearless about it?!?
Through my reactivity, I found myself drawn more and more to Mary, feeling a deep sense of connection with her fear, anxiety, disbelief, and obedience to all that was happening around her. I came to appreciate in a new way the divine orchestration involved in the story of Jesus’ birth:
- The Wiseman hearing the call and showing up, rallying around Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus showing their respect, admiration, and support.
- The Angel of the Lord guiding and directing the people to be in the right places at the right time.
- The raw courage and strength of Mary and Joseph to believe the impossible and act out of obedience and faith rather than out of their own will.
Through my tears I was asking:
- Would do that in my life?
- I am that important to God?
- In what ways is he doing this already?
- What is going on behind the scenes that I don’t know about?
- In what areas of my life do I need to choose trust over fear?
After asking those questions and fully feeling my fear, anxiety and worry, a strange thing happened, I felt:
- Relief– as the angel suggested; I could chose to not be afraid.
- Joy– being reminded of the complexity of how God works, and how it’s not for me to understand what’s going on, rather for me to be obedient and simply do what I am being asked to do.
- Peace– I was connected to the story and myself in ways that I had not yet experienced.
Their fear mirrored my own, their experience of being asked to believe and do the unthinkable mirrored my own, and their obedience in the face of great odds mirrored my own. I was comforted because just as they were ok in the story, so was I. I had the overwhelming sense that no matter what happens in my life that I have been given or will be given the tools, the resources, and the support around me to grow, thrive, and flourish under any circumstances. I was fully alive in my fear and knew that the next step in my personal growth is to give and receive love more freely; I felt loved by God after that experience.
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Tags: Afraid, Andrew Mercer, anxiety, Center for Christian Life Enrichment, Chicago, chicagoland, Christian, Christmas, CLE, Counseling, emotions, faith, fear, God, Jesus, Joseph, joy, Mary, north shore, Northbrook, northshore, Peace, Personal Growth, Questions, reactivity, relief, trust, Willow Creek, Worry
Categories : Christian, Personal Growth, Spirituality
In my Small Group Bible study through Park Community Church in Chicago, I have been reading through Ecclesiastes. For me that is a challenge. I don’t always see, hear, or experience the Bible as a life-giving document that inspires me to live a more Christ-like life. More often I see the Bible as I did growing up- a tool for punishment. I’ve been reticent to dig into it deeply and yet am starving for the knowledge, wisdom, insight, and healing that it can provide. I have suspended my fears and just read it. I’m glad I have, among the many great things I’m learning, the most poignant so far has come from Ecclesiastes 4:8-12.
8 There was a man all-alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. “For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” This too is meaningless— a miserable business! 9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
I read the first part and had an, oh crap he’s talking about me moment. I immediately identified with the man standing alone- working constantly, rarely content and actually depriving himself of enjoyment! I’ve been living under the mistaken belief that in order for life to have meaning it must be a struggle- not true, well, not entirely true. Life is hard work and it is hard work that is best taken on in community, with support and not something to be done alone.
As a therapist I have the privilege to be a professional relationship builder, and yet these relationships alone are not enough to keep me filled, supported, and thriving. I find an immense amount of satisfaction and joy from my work and though people whom I support surround me, I live my life more like the man in the passage. I am learning to reach out more often for the same level of support in my own life that I offer others on a daily basis. As the words in the passage suggest, when I am supported and backed up by another my efforts go farther. I work harder, have someone to help me up when I fall, and I stay warmer- full of life, energy and vitality.
Through my employment at the Center for Christian Life Enrichment I have experienced the value of community and groups. On faith I have done the unthinkable, and risked pain, rejection, and hurt by getting involved in my own personal growth work receiving group and individual support. I am allowing myself to trust more than I have in the past and I am seeing the positive effects permeate my life. I am less concerned with personal failure and utter destruction. I have instead created for myself, through intention and support, the network of support I need to be constantly growing, learning, and playing in this world.
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Tags: Andrew Mercer, bible, Center for Christian Life Enrichment, Chicago, chicagoland, Christian, CLE, community, Counseling, failure, God, growing, growth work, learning, north shore, Northbrook, Personal Growth, relationships, struggle, therapist, wholeness
Categories : Christian, Community, Personal Growth, Relationships
I’m stressed, my internal two-year old is throwing a fit. Not only can I not seem to find the energy or motivation to get done what I need to get done, I just plain don’t want to. Being grown up, responsible, and ready to take on the world is the farthest thing from my mind.
I am in the midst of a mental hijack and am feeling the effects of burnout- apathy, listlessness, and fatigue have all set in. And now that I’m in this place, I’m stressing about being unproductive. This stress I’m adding to the mix is really only keeping me stuck- I’m making my own problem worse. I can feel the toxic slide beginning and I know that I can’t afford to indulge this mood.
I pull away from my desk, close my eyes, and take a deep breath. For an instant I regain normal adult brain functioning. My years of counseling training have paid off- I can think again! As this brief moment of clarity sets in I’m off to the races. I know enough about myself to know that this mood won’t subside on its own, and as I sit at my office in Northbrook and look out on the parking lot, I know I need to act and act quickly before the next tantrum begins.
I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths, and a little boy of about 3 years old floated into my consciousness. This may sound weird, but we had a conversation. I imagined what he needed. He looked really sad and really scared, and I knew that as a responsible parent and adult, it was my duty to comfort this boy. He was the one throwing the tantrum and refusing to get any work done, and he was the part of me in need of attention the most.
Though I was reassuring this young part of myself, adult Andrew was getting some care and comfort as well. My self-soothing words seemed like cold water on a hot day and I felt the rest of my body relax. The knots in my back loosened ever so slightly and the tension in my head eased. I breathed a deep breath and sigh of relief.
I was once again in touch with myself, my inner child and with my power and purpose in life. I felt more ready and able to go about my day and get done the work I needed to do. I was in the same moment, my internal parent and internal child giving counsel and compassion as well as a firm call to action.
Once I opened my eyes and regained my focus, the feeling of dread, fear, deadness, and anxiety had all but subsided. I was back, my brain and body nourished and no longer hijacked were ready to once again be the productive and responsive tools that I needed them to be.
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Tags: aliveness, Andrew Mercer, burnout, Center for Christian Life Enrichment, Chicago, chicagoland, Christian, CLE, Counseling, emotions, inner child, Northbrook, northshore, nourishment, Personal Growth, Questions, self-care, stress, stressed, Therapy
Categories : Emotional Intelligence, Personal Growth
The first time I ever went out drinking was a day of exploration, fun, and carefree unconscious exuberance. At the time there didn’t seem to be any consequences, but little did I know what was going to happen the next morning. Though I wore the headache, irritability, lethargy, and pain as a badge of honor, I told myself I wasn’t going to drink like that again. Oddly enough, once the hangover subsided and I returned to normal, I forgot my vow and was out at it the next weekend seeking a way to be connected with others yet unconscious and unaware.
Now just as I have been physically hungover and sick from drinking too much, I have also felt an emotional hangover when I spend too much time drinking in painful emotions without taking the time to express them responsibly. This happens often with my family where I feel a lot, take on a lot, have racing thoughts and feel internally out of control yet appear dead to the world. The exhaustion this struggle c
reates is breeding grounds for an emotional hangover. The effects of which sometimes take days to recover from.
When I leave and retreat back to the safety of my apartment in Chicago, I slowly and painfully regain the consciousness I worked so hard to suppress. I come away feeling so thirsty for aliveness and connection that it hurts. I literally go through the physical sensations of being hungover even though I haven’t had a drop of alcohol!
The jolt that gets me out of my funk, the water that cures my emotional dehydration, is safety in community. I had the experience of being jolted into aliveness through the tough support of community encouraging me to leave the mess I wallow in and join society as an alive, functioning, and supportive member. While I am getting better at recognizing my foul moods, I depend on the support of other people to help me out of them. When people hold for me the higher vision of being the strong, confident, capable man that I am I can more readily step out of my deadness and awaken to the aliveness of life that is happening all around me. I choose to participate in the abundance around me instead of walking around in a slump only aware of a very narrow spectrum.
Where disconnection is my alcohol, community is the best cure I know for an emotional hangover. The desire and drive to connect keep me in check, and where I once struggled with drinking too much my current area of growth is disconnecting too much. Thankfully through the support of the community at the Center for Christian Life Enrichment, as well as my friends and growth work partners, I am creating the community and the opportunities for the type of authentic connection that are unavailable to me in the grips of an emotional hangover.
I hope you will join me in my efforts to connectand connect authentically by adding to the conversation either online or in person- Here’s to an emotional hangover-free Holiday season!
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Tags: alcohol, aliveness, Andrew Mercer, authentic, Center for Christian Life Enrichment, Christian, CLE, connection, Counseling, deadness, dehydration, disconnected, emotional hungers, emotions, funk, Hangover, moods, north shore, Northbrook, northshore, Personal Growth, relationships, support, Therapy, Transformation
Categories : Community, Personal Growth
Continued from Tuesday read more of my thoughts on fighting loneliness-
Especially for singles during this holiday season, feeling loneliness and shame are common and avoidable. I would suggest a couple of simple things that I have found helpful in my own life and that were suggested to me by Rich Blue of the Center for Christian Life Enrichment:
First- change what you beleive about yourself and the world. Believe that you are a person worth being in relationship with, that you have a lot to offer and that you are capable of creating the type of fun and connection you are hungry for. It sounds simple and is yet often overlooked. If you have the vision for and the definition of what you want it is much easier to actually get that.
Second- Do one thing each day to connect in a way you would not normally do. Maybe it is calling a friend you have lost touch with, sending out a card, or writing a meaningful email. It could be as simple as talking to the doorman in your building or the receptionist at your office, striking up a conversation on the bus, or simply looking people in the eye as you walk by them on the street. The important thing is to be pro-active and assume that other people will be happy to hear from you.
Waiting for others to connect with you can be painful, and is normally a setup that perpetuates feeling stuck, in shame, and alone.
Doing these little things with the mindset that you are valuable and worth knowing will go a long way to filling your intimacy tank- they have and still do for me! Creating intimacy does not have to be a fight; it can be a manageable, measurable, step-by-step process of getting what you want out of life. Taking these daily steps does require an increasing level of consciousness as well as the willingness to engage with vulnerability and truth. The payoff though is living an abundant life full of depth, intimacy, and meaning!
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Tags: Andrew Mercer, Center for Christian Life Enrichment, Chicago, chicagoland, Christian, CLE, Counseling, emotional hungers, emotions, Northbrook, northshore, pain, Personal Growth, Questions, relationships
Categories : Personal Growth, Relationships